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Showing posts from June 11, 2016

Here’s A Self Driving Car That You Can Use Today

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Okay, it’s a bus. Not a car at all. Self-driving only in the sense that you as the passenger don’t actually need to put the effort in to do it. All those things you thought you might do in a self-driving car whilst it was on auto-pilot? Well you can do most of them on a bus too.Of course a bus doesn’t have the same flexibility as a car that really drives itself, and in some localities they are never going to manage the coverage necessary to make them a viable alternative to a car. However the savings from not owning a car, travelling by bus and using a taxi for outlier journeys should be immense, not just for individuals, but for communities too.So before we celebrate the success of any self-driving car we should measure its efficiency against the bus. Because technology isn’t always the answer.

This Is Why Apple Needs To Step Up To The Plate On Wireless Charging

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This Indiegogo campaign for an add-on wireless charging solution seems, at best, to be naive and at worst to be dangerously loose with the truth in its bid to get funding. With the wireless charging format wars all but sorted the introduction of Fli charging adds little to the market except for a slickly done campaign video. The campaign makes some patently untrue claims about current wireless charging technologies – plenty of Qi charging plates do not require specific orientation to work (it may be the case for all of them, certainly all of mine support any orientation) and wireless fast chargers do exist. It also glosses over the fact that Qi cases are freely available for iPhones and for micro USB devices there are many Qi universal connectors available. So what is a very expensive proposition comes down to two things. Do you want to tie yourself to a new wireless charging standard without broad manufacturer support, little guarantee of future development and all the risks that cr…

iPhone 7 Images Leak – But What Does It Mean?

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Remember the days when the iPhone was something that arrived unheralded with no leaks or hints as to what was coming and what it would look like? Can you remember the impact of Gizmondo’s iPhone 4 scoop? It all seems a long time ago, now the expectation is that we will know what the new iPhone will look like before it arrives on stage with Tim Cook.There have been many and varied leaks of the new iPhone and in the same way that the iPhone 5 and 6 were comprehensively detailed before release, the iPhone 7’s form factor can be easily guessed thanks to the alignment of these leaks.In effect what we are getting is an iPhone 6S-S. A tweaked iPhone 6 shell with revised antenna lines and more or less identical structure.That introduces a new element to the Apple tick-tock release schedule. Tick – a new form factor, tock – improved performance and new hardware features.This should be a ‘tick’ year but as we don’t seem to be getting the new form factor that defines the name change I wonder if …

Windows Universal Apps Beginning To Appear In Greater Numbers

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The app gap is something that dogged Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 throughout their short existence, there were too few apps and the stream of quality new apps arriving was too slow to even be a trickle.
With Windows 10 the universal app idea seems to have taken off and there is a slow, but steady, stream of new apps arriving.
In the last few days that has included Air Asia, Expedia and now the US Postal Service. Plex and VLC have apps in beta at the moment, whilst there is a Starbucks app inbound.
Whilst that might be seen as a good thing - and for Windows Mobile users in particular it is - if you stand back and look at the bigger picture things aren't so rosy. Android and iOS app stores are so full of top tier apps that anybody seeking to solely report on the updates in this part of the market wouldn't have enough hours in the day.
When the appearance of a new universal app for Windows becomes so commonplace that it doesn't warrant an article on Windows websites is when…

Kantar Sees Further Market Share Losses For Windows Phone, iPhone

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Kantar World Panel has published its smartphone market share numbers for the three months to the end of April and both Microsoft and Apple have cause for alarm.In all the markets where Kantar records numbers both iPhone and Windows share were down. In the USA Windows phone sales were down by two-thirds, in Australia almost as much. In the former Windows stronghold of Europe, EU5 sales halved year on year.For Apple the figures were neither as bad nor as portentous as they look to be for Microsoft. Nonetheless another weak quarter is in prospect based on Kantar's numbers. With Android numbers booming the figures are made to appear worse that they are.In the US and Australia, two of Apple's stronger markets, share was down by 8% and 10% respectively. The news from China was worse - share was down almost 20% year on year. In Apple's strongest and weakest markets (Japan and the EU5) share was down by over 5%.Worse news for Apple is that its share numbers were down not just on t…

Apple's iOS 10 Features Are Derivative, And That's Okay

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Most of the 'new' features Apple announced for iOS at WWDC this week have been seen elsewhere before. Do a search for iOS 10 and you'll find lots of stories about how this feature came from Android, that one came from Windows, others came from the jailbreak community and at least one came from Blackberry. (That last feels rather too much like grave robbing for my liking).It's all true. Apple has cribbed features from its competitors and it won't be the first or the last time it does so. However only Apple is doing it all in one place.As the smartphone market matures so the competing platforms will become more like each other. Ignoring the make-up each device when you get down to detail they start to look, feel and act like each other.Think of the automobile market. Cars have crystallised around a set of standard design decisions, and new features go from new to standard in months.Smartphones have reached that point much more quickly than cars and by the same token …

Apple Just Made More Than 150 Million iPads Obsolete, Some Just A Year Old

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Apple’s announcement of iOS 10 brings plenty of new features to the platform, however most of the iPad owning community won’t get to see the update. Apple ended the update program for all iPads introduced before the end of 2013: the original iPad, iPad 2 and iPad 3rd and 4th generations; and the original iPad Mini.The iPad Mini was still on sale as recently as last year, whilst the iPad 2 and 4th generation were still on sale in early and late 2014 respectively.Now these are older machines I grant you, but it still gives the lie to Apple’s harping on about updates on other platforms. If you recently bought the iPad Mini in particular you’ve a right to be upset. Apple sold you something that it knew it wouldn’t be updating after just a year.Of course if you bought any Android tablet you’d probably be in the same boat (albeit with a fuller wallet). Even premium Android tablets are still waiting for Marshmallow whilst its replacement is being introduced to the world.On the plus side Wind…

Microsoft Buys LinkedIn, Pays Handsomely For It

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$26bn is an awfully large sum of money to pay for a business, for that sort of money you’d expect to see a fairly healthy balance sheet and a significant amount of revenue being generated. That doesn’t describe LinkedIn, yet Microsoft has decided to make the business social network its latest and largest acquisition.Given the company’s past record with large acquisitions this doesn’t sound very promising. Mostly its hard to see where Microsoft gets value from the deal.For starters the cost per user is a mindblowing $250 – compared with Facebook’s purchase of Whatsapp at around $40 per user even more so. Does the fact that these are predominantly business users make them more than six times as valuable? I’m not convinced.Microsoft must believe that the LinkedIn product will slot into its ecosystem and provide some value – but what that is and where it fits isn’t obvious.Satya Nadella painted the deal as bringing together the professional cloud and the professional network. By knowing t…

Is The App Store In Danger Of Becoming The Next iTunes?

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A large factor in the iPhone’s success has been the App Store, an easy marketplace for buyer and seller to come together for the sale of apps. From its original guise as a simple tool the App Store has grown and become more complex as it has become more crowded and the net result is that the App Store is now starting to be a serious obstruction to the distribution of apps.First of all the obvious problem. As the number of apps available has grown so it has become more difficult for users to find new and useful tools. Search on the App Store is weak and Apple hasn’t really provided a proper remediation for this. Its next move, the introduction of ads to search results, promises to make things worse for everyone.Then there is pricing. Publishers drove app pricing down in the early days of the App Store, in the race to build sales numbers. Effectively the average sale price of an app in the App Store is zero. Apple introduced the in-app purchase as a way for publishers to better monetise…

Office 365 Represents Amazing Value Right Now

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About a year ago I picked up a Surface 3, which turned out to be a surprisingly useful replacement for my laptop and tablet. Included in the bundle was a twelve month subscription to Office 365 Personal, providing the latest version of Microsoft's flagship Office product (currently Office 2016) and 1TB of online storage through OneDrive.With those twelve months being all but up I started looking into a renewal thinking that I would probably allow the subscription to lapse. In fact my original plan was to write this post comparing the boxed, retail purchasing cost to the annual subscription with the expectation being that the latter would prove to be uneconomic in the long run.Turns out that isn't the case.Office 365 Personal is listed at NZ $119 on Microsoft's New Zealand web site, however a quick trawl through PriceSpy proves that you can get it cheaper. Much cheaper. $75 in this case.Just considering the storage alone this looks like amazing value. A Dropbox subscription…

Hey Microsoft, Isn't It Time You Fixed Cortana For International Users?

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Cortana is wonderful. Cortana manages to mix the best of Siri with the best of Google Now. Cortana is on both desktop and mobile. And if Microsoft had its way I wouldn't know any of this.Cortana isn't officially available in New Zealand. That's okay, New Zealand is a small country and has some really specific localisation of language that might require an overly burdensome effort to handle. (Until you've been asked about how you oil your dick you won't know what I mean).However I'm English. I speak the Queen's English and Cortana has no problem understanding me. There are millions of my countrymen here and most of them are in the same boat too.So why do we have to jump through so many hoops to get Cortana working on our PCs and Phones? It's an easy process to complete - set my region and language to the UK and UK English and I'm off and running. Except now I see the UK Store on both my phone and PC. Not helpful when searching for New Zealand content…

Android Wear Begins Fragmentation: Moto 360 Left Behind

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Android Wear 2.0 made its entrance at Google I/O 2016 and already it has started the process of fragmentation of the platform. Given the way that this blights Android it isn't a promising start to the wearable platform. The specific device not getting the update is the original Moto 360 presumably because of its weak specifications. That's a better reason than the one's that have caused the dire state of Android's platform, but it still calls into question Google's ability to steward a platform, even one where it has attempted to control OEM  excesses by being prescriptive about what they can and can't do.Lest we forget, development of the Moto 360 was almost entirely undertaken under Google's stewardship of Motorola Mobility. So you'd expect a better run of system upgrades than the fifteen months that the 360 has managed.With all the barriers to smartwatch adoption - including the fact that few people actually need one - raising concerns about long-ter…

Apple The Green Energy Company

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Earlier this year Apple completed the largest bond issue in US corporate history, raising $1.5bn to finance renewable energy, green buildings and conservation. That money looks like it will get put to very good use following today's news that the company will begin selling green electricity into the US wholesale power market. A new subsidiary company has applied for the Federal licenses to allow this to happen. It's a move that is good for the whole US and not just Apple. The States have a poor penetration of clean energy, which when added to huge demand makes the US one of the world's biggest polluters. By feeding its excess energy into the grid Apple reduces demand for dirty power. Having pretty much moved its whole corporate infrastructure to renewables Apple could potentially use the income stream from its power business to expand its generation capability and thus its ability to sell over supply into the wholesale market. It's a virtuous circle that could make gre…

Google Ends Support of Early Chromebooks

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Five years into the Chromebook 'experiment' Google has more than proved that its web browser based platform can compete against traditional devices, having outsold OS X and Linux in the US last quarter to become the second best selling platform.However there is the question of long-term support to consider now, as the first batches of third-party Chromebooks start to bump up against Google's five year support cycle. Those early machines will shortly stop getting updates from Google, although they will continue to work. Will this still be the case if a high impact security risk is uncovered though? Google has the ability to shut down these machines permanently, what will happen when it has the motivation too, I wonder? How does this compare with Microsoft and Apple? Pretty poorly actually. At five years old my MacBook Air is running the latest version of OS X whilst my Acer Timeline, which is approaching six years old, received Windows 10, and continues to see updates along…

Has Tesla Got A Suspension Safety Issue?

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Is Tesla hiding a potential safety problem or is the company being attacked for financial or political reasons? Over the last week Tesla has found itself engaged in a battle of words with car blogger Ed Niedermeyer who has claimed that the company has been seeking to silence Model S owners who have been experiencing suspension problems with their cars. The source of the claim was a forum post claiming that the owner of a faulty 2013 Model S had been bribed to keep quiet over a potential detect by means of a goodwill payment and agreement that prevented discussion of the problem. This doesn't seem to be consistent with the way that Tesla operates. The cars have proven to be remarkably robust with solid design and execution. The company has a particularly fragile reputation to protect as its role as a key electric vehicle pioneer makes it susceptible to public opinion swings. Whilst a recall relating to a suspension part would barely move the needle (especially given how many signif…